Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Camel Racing in Qatar

While visiting friends in Qatar, we stopped by the camel racetrack to see the camels practice. Robotic camel jockeys are used instead of people. The owners ride along-side the track in Land Cruisers with remote controls. It is like a live-action video game.

We met Sallah Ali, a camel owner, who took us in his Land Cruiser to ride along during a practice race for young camels. Luckily, camels aren't very fast. I think a dog race would be faster. It was fun and crazy. Afterwards, he took us to his camel stables and we got to ride. Curt fell off because he didn't get on fast enough, but he managed to stay on his feet.

Being in Qatar is so different than Egypt. There is no bakshesh (tips). In Egypt, people will ask for bakshesh for telling you things you already know like which airport gate you are supposed to go to. No bakshesh in Qatar. It was refreshing. So, we got to ride camels without paying for it. Sallah Ali was just being kind to us.

Not only does Sallah Ali participate in camel racing, he enters his camels in camel conformation competitions, "camel beauty pagents" as he puts it. My cousin raises show dogs, Sallah Ali, raises show camels. I'm hoping my friends keep in contact with him and attend a camel beauty pagent.

Ian did not get to ride a camel this time. He was asleep in the Land Cruiser and we decided not to move him. Camels aren't safe for babies anyway.

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